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Martin v. United States

    Brief Fact Summary. This was a personal injury action in which the District Court determined damages to be awarded plaintiffs, minor children by and through their next of friends and personal representatives, in their claim brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act 28 U.S.C.S Section:Section:1346, 2674. The case, brought under the claim of governmental negligence, was tried in the federal district court where the court found in favor of the minors, ruling the government liable for contributory negligence.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. In calculating proper awards for damages in a negligence claim, the following elements are properly considered: 1) Past medical expenses and future medical expenses; 3) Present value of lost future earning capacity; 4) Pain and suffering, and 5) interference with normal and usual activities.

    Facts. Plaintiffs, two minor boys, were riding a motorbike when they struck a sagging power line that had been negligently maintained by the government. They both suffered severe and permanent injuries. Plaintiffs brought a claim pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act. With regard to assessment of damages, both sides, in a proceeding in before a judge of the U.S. District Court (District of Arizona) brought professional experts to testify as to the likely vocational prospects and medical and other costs surrounding the Plaintiffs’ injuries. The same judge then requested that the parties submit post-trial memoranda concerning damages. He then issued an assessment of damages.

    Issue. What elements are to be examined when assessing damages in a personal injury/negligence claim?

    Held. The court issued its findings of fact and conclusions regarding damages to be awarded the injured minors in their action against the government under the Federal Tort Claims Act.

    Discussion. Per Restatement of Torts Section: 924 under tort law personal injury victims can be compensated for (1) medical expenses; (2) lost wages or impaired earning capacity; (3) pain and suffering; (4) other incidental economic consequences caused by the injury; and, in some case, (5) the cost of medical monitoring.
    This case offers a blueprint of the manner in which a court typically assesses such damages. The United States District Court offered a detailed analysis of the assessment of each area of injury:
    Medical testimony. The court found that by trial, plaintiff one had incurred approximately $48,000 medical costs; future medical expenses were calculated at $49,000, plus $5,000 for psychological treatments.
    Future Earnings. Economic and vocational experts testified, based on the education and aptitude of the plaintiffs, and the local demographic, as to their likely future earnings. The court took that figure, and conservatively calculated for future and compounded interest as well as cost-of-living adjustments, and awarded plaintiff approximately $548,000.
    Pain and suffering. Based on testimony concerning medical and psychological factor, the court awarded $1,000,000 damages for pain and suffering.


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